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When should we cap a nap?

I get asked this a lot. Like with everything to do with sleep, however, there is no one size fits all answer.

Naps are paramount to help little ones get through the day. Their sleep pressure tank fills up a lot quicker and naps are there to take the edge off.

They prevent cortisol (the stress hormone) building up, which can cause a dysregulated little one and also negatively affect sleep itself.

I personally don’t recommend actively capping naps unless there is an issue arising, that to me is clearly a direct result of a nap or total daytime sleep being too long. Every child’s sleep need is different and so to cap at the average for all could lead a high sleep need child to not get enough sleep.

Reasons to cap a nap
  • During a nap transition it’s normally a good idea to cap the nap that is going before losing it entirely. Particularly in the case of the 2-1 nap transition. If the length of the morning nap is causing nap 2 to be a battle, very late, or not happen at all then it’s time to cap that morning nap at 45/30/20 mins dependent on situation and current length. This is normally smoother than dropping cold turkey.

  • Even when not dropping a nap it’s worth capping a nap if it’s detrimentally affecting a proceeding nap. Spreading the naps across the day in an age appropriate way is key to not ending up with one window being dramatically longer than the others.

  • If bedtime is becoming a battle it may be you need to cap daytime sleep at a certain time so the window before bed is long enough to build up enough pressure for sleep. Undertiredness is under diagnosed.

  • If their overall amount of daytime sleep starts causing broken nights, early rising and split nights then you will need to reduce the overall amount of daysleep by capping them.

For newborns in the fourth trimester I wouldn’t worry about capping naps unless you are waking to feed or they are sleeping dramatically more in the day than the night. In the first 3 months they don’t have their circadian rhythm in place and so sleep is normally spread evenly across day and night.

Below is a chart of average sleep requirements for naps per age. It is really important to note that not every child fits into these brackets. If your little one isn't sitting within these numbers but is happy and thriving then please do not worry. Every child is different.

As always, if you are worried about anything and are struggling then hop over to my contact me page and drop me a message and we can discuss working together to make any changes you need. Or have a look at my packages to see what I offer.

For daily hints and tips, follow me on Instagram @secondstartotheright_sleep or Facebook @secondstartotherightsleep.

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